How Technology Is Helping the Blind Navigate the Physical World

Asakawa and her collaborators on the new project, called NavCog, have dotted a part of the Carnegie Mellon University campus with beacons: Bluetooth emitters about the size of smoke detectors. Users connect with the beacons via a smartphone app (NavCog’s code is open-source, but the app currently only runs on iOS) and then a Siri-like voice guides them through the campus step by step. The team hopes to pair the beacons with facial recognition software that can identify acquaintances in the stream of passersby and even inform users when people they encounter are holding a cellphone to their ear or being led around by a dog. This system could make Asakawa’s walks through campus a whole lot simpler.